Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The night of the Gutter Hearts

Marc Almond @ Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 9th July

Last night, at Marc Almond's concert and 50th birthday it was all heart. A right old love-in between his fans, who used to call themselves Gutter Hearts and his royal tainted-ness himself. He said himself, "I'd rather be here, with all of you, than anywhere else tonight." I first saw Marc, many Julys ago on his first solo tour where the crowd were rabid for their hero: fainting, screaming and dancing like banshees and totally loving it. Maybe the fainting has stopped, but the screaming, dancing and loving it haven't.

Two Soho legends together.

Marc hit my teenage zeitgeist like a thunderbolt - an emotional misfit with a key to another world. The pictures he painted were like the films I watched furtively on my portable TV: Derek Jarman's Sebastien, Querelle, any Bette Davis melodrama. All of them, worlds full of colour, vibrancy and on the edge of everything! But he also taught me what it was like to be romantic and perhaps, dare I say it, how to love someone through song, and that, above anything is why his fans are so evangelical about him. At times tonight, looking down from my fabulous front-of-circle view, seeing arms raised and voices louder than the band for songs like the divine My Hand Over My Heart was like being at the Church of Marc Himself.

He was so overcome by the crowd's outpouring, especially after everyone, lead by guitarist Neil X, sang Happy Birthday, he couldn't get through the first verse of the next song. And the emotion didn't stop there, when he thanked the late Gene Pitney for having played such a major part in his career Marc had to leave the stage to compose himself. When Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart came round, I sobbed during Gene Pitney's part. Worra softie I am.

He doesn't look a day over 49!

Marc had an album to promote tonight as well! The glorious Stardom Road, full of covers reflecting his life and career fitted like a glove into 27 years' worth of his own material. Soft Cell numbers, Tainted Love, What! and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye(the crowd sang most of it!) were anthemic but it was amazing to hear Marc and the Mambas' Your Aura (surprisingly rocky) and the early solo numbers like The Boy Who Came Back, Ruby Red and Melancholy Rose. Jacky was given a fantastic interpretation: lounging on Martin Watkins' piano, Marc did a louche, slo-mo version of the chorus while going at double-time, like Beyonce on speed, for the verses, no mean feat after his accident. He apologised several times for forgetting the words throughout the concert, in fact, someone from the audience had to prompt the first line for the Mamba's Torment and Torreros after Neil X let him down!

As a break for the band, Marc performed a couple of songs from his album of Russian songs, Heart of Snow. Igor Outkine, the Russian musician performed (his accordion-type thing) beautifully. And Marc's big heart allowed him to reap the huge cheers of the audience on his own.

At the end of the second encore, an amazing two and a half hours after the beginning of the concert, La Almond sang Curtain Falls and then exited, stage right, arms brimming with flowers, tears flowing and a heart bursting.


Over on his website, the editors, Vicky and Michelle have pulled off a fantastic 50th birthday tribute with messages from friends and colleagues. Dave Ball (aww), Babs Windsor (bless), Antony (from The Johnstons) Hegarty, Nick Cave, David McAlmont, Jools Holland, Holly Johnson, Gary Numan, Janice Long, Matt Johnson (!), JG Thirlwell (!!), Annie Hogan (!!!!), Tasty Tim, Mark Moore, Kiki Dee, The Sparks, Sarah Cracknell and even Coronation St's Bill Tarmey all wish him well. Erasure have a lovely, heartfelt little video message too.

The Gutter Hearts get their say too. Of course!

As someone who arrived at Marc a bit later, Tricky, over on his website was amazed by the concert and the emotion of the night. So, for him and others who may have missed the earlier, gorgeous material, here are a few to be getting on with!

From the Vermin in Ermine album:
The Boy Who Came Back - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)
Tenderness is a Weakness - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)
Gutter Hearts - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)

From the Stories of Johnny album:
My Candle Burns - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)
Stories of Johnny - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)

From the Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters album:
Melancholy Rose - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)
Ruby Red - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)

And because it's so gorgeous:
My Hand Over My Heart - Marc Almond (mp3 Download)


J'ason D'luv said...

What? No "Sex Dwarf"?

Wording it with your delicacy, as someone who arrived at pop a bit later myself, I had this same very iconic connection you describe with Morrissey from age 14 (in 1987) on... but that's another story.

J'ason D'luv said...

Oops, guess that would have been age 13.

Phil said...

Funny you should say that, because whilst I was loving Marc Almond, my twin brother (yes! But not identical), was getting it on with Morrissey, just like you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great review and tribute. I was introduced to Mr. Almond's music through "Tainted Love", but did not really appreciate his enormous talent until he caught my attention with his amazing duet with Gene Pitney (My all time fave)on "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart". I'm glad he made such a fantastic recovery and is doing so well

Dan H.

Tricky said...

Wondrous treat... thank you.

I should clarify that I did absolutely love Tenement Symphony when it came out, and '91 isn't that late, but I do appreciate that is not the same as following him from the early 80s.

Still, I think at this point, one can say "he made an album of Russian folksongs? WTF!" and marvel at his checkered career.

Phil said...

@ Anon, I think it's staggering that his amazing recoverey means he can still perform for 2.5 hours.

@ Tricky, gawd! You're right! I forgot Tenement Symphony was '91! And he's done so much since...

V said...

I was or have been getting it on with both Moz & Marc.

Nice review - I'm jealous and I wish I could have been there.

I saw Marc once in late 90's here in NYC and it was an amazing and emotional show for me.

Phil said...

I think if he played NYC it would be very special. I'd love to see it!

Anonymous said...